From the Editors: Commentary for Embodiment Special Issue

Wellington, New Zealand, is considered a windy city (twice as windy as Chicago). It is also a hilly city. Victoria University, where I spend my day, is on the top of one of those hills and while that means I have a wonderful view, there are times I despise the walk up from town. Particularly the last bit (the ‘final insult’ as I think of it), from where I can almost see my office.

Thanks to Shame Cole and Emily Balcetis, I now have a partial solution – stand next to Michael Moore (or some other stout or infirm individual) at the bottom of my traverse. Cole and Balcetis summarise a number of studies, including their own, showing that participants’ perception of things like distance to the finish line are influenced by environmental and physiological cues of various kinds. This is more than just a psychological curiosity however, as they also provide numerous concrete real-life examples of how this plays out.

Jesse Chandler discusses further weighty issues (couldn’t resist) – taking a more traditional line in summarising a wealth of research on how physical weight (or our pre-existing knowledge of object properties) can influence our judgements of value and importance. As good scientists, though, it’s not enough to show this association but seek to understand it, and the question Jesse asks is whether knowing more about the weighty object in question is important – what moderates the weight-judgement effect? I shall leave it up to you to read the article to find out.

Sascha Topolinski casts a wide net indeed - advertising, popcorn, and the 'tongue tango' (why are you still reading the commentary - I'd be reading the article!) Basically, repetition effects for ideas, people, brands, or (probably) anything involving words are ameliorated simply by 'entertaining' the mouth (eating popcorn, chewing gum, etc) and thereby interfering with oral fluency that appears to underly these repetition effects. Given the role that psychological research has had in generating successful advertising, it's kinda nice to see some balance in the force.

Holding a clipboard and being asked to complete attitude scales is one thing, but what about imagining interacting with an object - can that produce similar effects? What are the parameters of those effects? Enter Ryan Elder and Aradhna Krishna, whose summary of mental simulation studies traverses such hardcore neuroscientific territory as mirror neurons, all the way through to consumer psychology - advertisements (for example) orienting products towards the viewer from the perspective with which they would interact with the real thing produce stronger purchasing intention.

Metaphor and its relationship with social cognition may be relatively new, but there is a long history to impression formation research. Known by introductory psychology students for his classic conformity work, Solomon Asch also established the power of primacy in person perception almost sixty years ago, and in this issue Michael Slepian suggests that it's not just the typical cues (what people look like) but environmental cues that can influence this fundamental process - ambient warmth means stronger impressions of warmth, and a series of studies show that "hard" vs "soft" sensory experiences affect classification of people as..., well, I don't want to spoil the punchline.

In contrast with the other articles in this issue, Adam Fetterman and Michael Robinson invite us to look inwards at ourselves. Specifically, our personalities, and the metaphors we use to describe personality. Not only would Mr. Spock describe himself as a 'head' person, but he is more calculating and rational, while prototypical 'heart' person Captain Kirk is more emotional and intuitive. And Fetterman and Robinson do more than provide fictional examples that have been deliberately produced to fit these prototypes.

Thomas Schubert's focus is not just on the nature of the relationship between physical and psychological, but also on the methods that have typically been used to investigate these effects. Thomas contrasts some of the issues and successes of 'manipulating the body and measuring thought' (does the weight of the book affect how you think about it?) and 'manipulating thought and measuring the body' (do you lean forward or back when thinking about the past or future?) As well as this paradigmatic distinction, Thomas observes the increasing use among researchers of the technologies that are stereotypically more associated with the 'hard' side of psychology (there's a study in that characterisation somewhere), encouraging researchers to make use of low-cost, crow-driven new technologies for their work.